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Alumni

MS in Entrepreneurship students come into the program with all kinds of ideas on what their business or products will be. Read on to see how these alumni took their ideas, or reimagined them, to create companies that make an impact.

Alessya Visnjic

Alessya VisnjicMSE ’18

Company: WhyLabs

Industry: Artificial Intelligence

Read more about Alessya
Alessya feels like she earned a “PhD in AI application resuscitation” during her eight years at Amazon. Her degrees in Applied Mathematics and the MSE program at UW—along with her experience at Amazon—catapulted her into Seattle’s Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) as a CTO in residence. From AI2, Alessya spun out her current venture WhyLabs: an AI observability platform built to enable every enterprise to run AI with certainty and bridge the gap between software and machine learning model operation. She and her co-founder Maria Karaivanova, former principal at Madrona, recently secured a $10M Series A round led by Defy Partners and AI Fund, which builds on a $4M raise last fall from backers Madrona Venture Group and Bezos Expeditions. To cap off the year, Alessya won GeekWire’s prestigious 2021 Startup CEO of the Year award.
Ryan Yousefian

Ryan YousefianMSE ’20

Company: ApnoMed

Industry: Medical Device

Read more about Ryan
Ryan struggled as a kid and was told he was “dumb and not college material.” He was diagnosed with sleep apnea and his Dad dedicated himself to finding a remedy. ApnoMed was born: a non-surgical treatment that aims to cure sleep apnea symptoms. “My mission is to spread the word to save as many lives as possible, one breath at a time.” ApnoMed won the UW Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge and the Dempsey Startup Competition. Ryan is currently in the Jones + Foster Accelerator with his company and a finalist in the Seattle Angel Conference. Ryan studied Business and Entrepreneurship at Washington State University before joining the MSE program. Ryan was recently awarded the Seattle’s Eastside “30 Under 30” award for 2021.
Cara Castro

Cara CastroMSE ‘19

Company: Atomo Coffee

Industry: Food & Beverage

Hear Cara’s story
Cara knew she had to be a part of a startup, but it took the MSE program to figure out exactly in what capacity. She had already founded Good Mountain—a social purpose hard cider company—but had to close the cider facility right before the start of the program. A year later, and thanks to a few strategic connections she made while in the program, enter Atomo Coffee: the “future of coffee” with a more sustainable blend that doesn’t use coffee beans. With $11.5M raised to date, Atomo has opened a 12,000-square-foot roastery in downtown Seattle (a bean’s throw away from the Starbucks headquarters). Cara has been with the team from the beginning and is the company’s Head of People + Culture. Before earning her MSE, Cara graduated from Central Washington University with a degree in Global Wine Studies.
Austin Hirsh

Austin HirshMSE ‘20

Company: The 2050 Company

Industry: Food & Beverage

Read more about Austin
Austin began his entrepreneurial journey as a mechanical engineering undergrad at University of San Diego. While in the MSE program, given his passion for creating value-added food products that reduce waste in the food industry, he launched The 2050 Company. Austin’s initial product: the world’s first instant smoothie made from upcycled produce. The 2050 Company placed third at the UW Dempsey Startup Competition and won the Northwest Entrepreneurship competition for a cumulative total of $32,500 in prize money. “These competitions have made it possible to bootstrap the business and stay focused on the mission: harnessing innovation to make our food supply more sustainable.” Currently in the UW Buerk Center run Jones + Foster Accelerator, Austin simultaneously launched a successful Kickstarter campaign that met its goal in an amazing 48 hours!
Keisha Credit

Keisha CreditMSE ‘18

Company: Lucke by Keisha

Industry: Fashion & Beauty

Read more about Keisha
Keisha started young at Microsoft, being selected as a marketing intern over 75 other candidates in high school. She then joined Microsoft again as a marketing manager after her BA from UW. After discovering that the corporate path wasn’t for her, and she was truly an entrepreneur at heart, she joined the MSE program to further her ventures and explore new ideas. She is the founder and owner of Lucke by Keisha, which produces high quality hair and beauty products. She soon reached seven figures in sales and was featured in a variety of media outlets, including Forbes. It was serendipity that then led Keisha to meet fellow MSE alum Zachary Dodds. They co-founded Paca y Paca—a scented candle company that re-invents the candle with refillable soy wax, phthalate-free inserts—and successfully completed the Jones + Foster Accelerator at UW securing $25K in funding.
Elaine Siu

Elaine SiuMSE ‘18

Company: Material Innovation Initiative

Industry: Alternative Materials

Read more about Elaine

Elaine made the leap from corporate attorney to founder and CEO when she quit her job to launch MINIMAL: the first 100% cruelty-free and vegan beauty e-commerce platform in Hong Kong (and Asia). That experience, and Elaine’s passion for animals and a healthy earth, led to her founding and managing the Good Food Institute‘s operations in the Asia-Pacific region. She worked with scientists, investors, and entrepreneurs to develop clean meat and plant-based alternatives to animal products. Siu has since moved on to the next emergent industry where she is the chief innovation officer of the Material Innovation Initiative. This altruistic organization is spurring development of new ventures that replace animal-based materials with more sustainable and humane high-performance alternatives for the fashion, automotive and home-goods markets. Elaine’s other passions spurred her to publish her first book Your Next 40,000 Hours: Falling into an Illuminating Second Career. Before joining the MSE program, Elaine studied at King’s College London, the University of Hong Kong, and the University of Edinburgh.

MSEntre alumni stories